Jeff Eisenberg

  • Dorian Finney-Smith saves Florida with go-ahead dunk, clinching block

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 7 hrs ago

    The only basket Dorian Finney-Smith scored Tuesday night will be replayed over and over on highlight shows the next 24 hours. 

    With Florida and Alabama tied 50 apiece and less than 30 seconds remaining, Finney-Smith caught a pass on the left wing, shot-faked and blew by 6-foot-10 defender Jimmie Taylor. Six-foot-9 Michael Kessens was late arriving for help defense at the rim, so Finney-Smith took advantage, soaring for picture-perfect one handed slam dunk.

    Alabama still had one last chance to force overtime or win in regulation, but Finney-Smith erased that as well. He swatted away Levi Randolph's attempt at a game-tying layup, corralled the rebound before the ball went out of bounds and held onto it until time expired, sealing a badly needed 52-50 Gators victory in Tuscaloosa. 

    The heroics of Finney-Smith are a are bright spot in an otherwise disappointing Florida season. The Gators (11-9, 4-3) began the year ranked in the preseason top 10 but failed to notch even one relevant non-league victory and have further hit the skids in SEC play, suffering three straight losses prior to Tuesday's critical win.

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  • VCU routs George Washington to cement itself as A-10 favorite

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 8 hrs ago

    In Shaka Smart's first five seasons as head coach at VCU, the Rams have won 26 or more games every year, made the NCAA tournament four times and even advanced to the school's only Final Four. 

    The one thing Smart curiously hasn't accomplished is winning a league title.

    VCU took a step toward checking that off Smart's list Tuesday night by demolishing arguably its biggest competition to win the Atlantic 10 this season. One of the Rams' most dominant defensive efforts of the season carried them to a 72-48 rout of a George Washington team that entered the game only a half game out of first place.

    Swarming full-court pressure defense harassed George Washington into 16 turnovers, but that wasn't what led to the Colonials' demise. They also couldn't score even when they did get across half court, shooting only 26.9 percent from the field, getting almost nothing out of their frontcourt and missing all but one of the 17 threes they attempted. Guards Kethan Savage and Joe McDonald were able to get to the foul line with consistency, but George Washington finished with more turnovers than field goals.   

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  • Will seldom-used Marshall Plumlee's role increase for Duke?

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 14 hrs ago

    Immediately after capturing his 1,000th victory Sunday against St. John's, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski credited the contributions of reserve center Marshall Plumlee as one the reasons the Blue Devils were able to rally from a 10-point second-half deficit.  

    "We were getting our butts kicked most of the game," Krzyzewski told FOX's Gus Johnson. "Then all of a sudden we put Marshall Plumlee in. We haven't used that lineup much. And Marshall and [Jahlil Okafor] together, I don't know, there was a spark."

    The comments from Krzyzewski raise a few questions. Did the youngest Plumlee brother's entrance into the game merely coincide with Duke's comeback, or was his presence one of the primary causes? And will Duke opt to dabble with playing 7-footers Plumlee and Okafor together more frequently in the future?

    Prior to Sunday, Plumlee's primary role this season had been to spell Okafor when he was in foul trouble or needed a rest. He had been averaging 7.0 minutes per game in ACC play and had scored a total of six points and grabbed 10 rebounds.

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  • An NCAA tournament without Syracuse is becoming increasingly likely

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 1 day ago

    Syracuse's overall record suggests it's still in decent position to sneak into the NCAA tournament despite its 93-83 loss at North Carolina on Monday night.

    A closer look at the Orange's remaining schedule, however, reveals reason for concern.

    Yes, Syracuse is 14-7 so far this season. Yes, Syracuse is a respectable 5-3 in the ACC. But the Orange need to pile up wins before Valentine's Day because their schedule is back-loaded and their final seven regular season games may be the nation's toughest finishing kick.  

    Between Feb. 14 and March 7, Syracuse will face fourth-ranked Duke twice, travel to eighth-ranked Notre Dame and dangerous NC State and host unbeaten Virginia, 10th-ranked Louisville and former Big East foe Pittsburgh. Aside from maybe the Pittsburgh game, the Orange almost certainly will not be favored to win any of those games. 

    Syracuse last missed the NCAA tournament in 2007 and 2008 when it settled for back-to-back NIT bids. The Orange have won 27 or more games every season since then, reaching the 2013 Final Four, the 2012 Elite Eight and the Sweet 16 in 2009 and 2010.

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  • Washington dismisses troubled NBA prospect Robert Upshaw

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 1 day ago

    Robert Upshaw is a former consensus top 50 recruit, a potential first-round pick in next June's NBA draft and a rim protector so gifted that he leads the nation in blocks despite coming off the bench almost every game he played this season.

    What does it say about his off-court issues then that a 7-footer so talented has been unable to stick at either school he has played for?  

    Washington coach Lorenzo Romar announced Monday that he has dismissed Upshaw from the program for an unspecified violation of team rules. Fresno State previously booted Upshaw after his freshman season in 2013 when coach Rodney Terry grew tired of suspending the promising center and decided keeping him on the team was more trouble than it was worth. 

    “We wish Rob well as he moves forward in his life," Romar said Monday in a statement "We will do our best to support him in the future."

    Upshaw's ability to defend the rim and run the floor may still get him selected in next June's draft, but his off-court problems certainly jeopardize his chances of an NBA team plunking down guaranteed money to take him in the first round. 

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  • Watch Coach K's locker room speech after his 1,000th win

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 1 day ago

    The locker room speech Mike Krzyzewski gave Sunday after his 1,000th win echoed the public sentiments he shared with reporters a few minutes later.

    The Duke coach deflected credit for his accomplishments onto the players, coaches and administrators who have helped him reach 1,000 wins. Krzyzewski also lauded his players for rising to the occasion in the final 10 minutes, transforming a double-digit deficit against St. John's into a memorable road win.

    "To see the emotion you guys had when you were making plays to come back was astounding," Krzyzewski said. "We made so many big-time hustle plays. So many. So many. That's what happens when you're consumed with winning, and I appreciate that."

    When Krzyzewski was done speaking, his players, still clad in "1,000 wins and Kounting" T-Shirts, presented him with the game ball. Krzyzewski thanked them and then asked Duke athletic director Kevin White and school president Richard Brodhead to share a few words.

    (Thanks for the video, Duke Athletics)

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  • Ranking the leading contenders for national coach of the year

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 1 day ago

    The list of midseason national coach of the year contenders is remarkably diverse.

    One coach was still an assistant when the school year began. Another was a fixture on every "hot seat" list this past summer. A third inherited a roster without a single player who averaged more than four points per game last season.

    There's a coach who's unbeaten with nine McDonald's All-Americans and a coach who's unbeaten without any. There's also a coach who's contending in his league despite only six scholarship players and nobody taller than 6-foot-6.  

    Below is a look at my list of midseason coach of the year candidates. Feel free to quibble with my order in the comments section or let me know who I missed.

    1. Tony Bennett, Virginia

    2. Larry Krystkowiak, Utah

    3. Archie Miller, Dayton 

    4. Wayne Tinkle, Oregon State

    5. John Calipari, Kentucky

    6. Mark Turgeon, Maryland

    7. Chris Holtmann, Butler

    8. Ben Jacobson, Northern Iowa

    Eight others worthy of consideration: Mike Brey, Notre Dame; Tom Crean, Indiana; Bo Ryan, Wisconsin; Bob McKilliop, Davidson; Mark Few, Gonzaga; Frank Haith, Tulsa; Bob Huggins, West Virginia; Gregg Marshall, Wichita State.

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  • Dez Wells' game-winning put-back caps Maryland's furious rally

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 2 days ago

    The only type of narrow loss Northwestern had managed to avoid during its first six Big Ten games was one in which the Wildcats let a late lead slip away.

    Now they can scratch that off the list too.

    Star-crossed Northwestern blew an 11-point lead in the final four minutes at Maryland on Sunday night, suffering a 68-67 loss in a game in which it didn't trail until the final 30 seconds. A go-ahead jumper by Tre Demps with 11 seconds left could have averted disaster for the Wildcats, but Northwestern couldn't get the stop it needed, surrendering an acrobatic fall-away put-back from Maryland's Dez Wells in the final seconds after Melo Trimble's 3-pointer rimmed out.

    Sunday's loss followed an all-too-familiar formula for Northwestern: Earn respect pushing a more talented opponent to the brink, yet find a way to lose in the final minutes. Four of the Wildcats' six Big Ten losses are by five or less points including two-point heartbreakers against Ohio State and Michigan last week. A fifth loss came by seven points in overtime at Michigan State.

    (Thanks for the video, Rob Dauster)

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  • NC State adds to its reputation for late-game heartbreak

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 2 days ago

    Squander an 18-point first-half lead in startlingly quick fashion? Check. Give away a four-point lead in the final minute of regulation? Check. Have a potential game-saving shot in the final seconds of overtime go halfway down but come back out? Check.

    NC State's 81-78 loss to eighth-ranked Notre Dame featured almost every punch to the gut a heartbreaking NC State loss should include. About the only thing that was missing Sunday night was a Karl Hess cameo, but you can be sure the polarizing former ACC referee was cackling in front of a TV somewhere. 

    The Wolfpack appeared to have their second signature win of the month sewn up with a four-point lead and possession of the ball with less than a minute to go in regulation, but they let it slip away in a hail of costly turnovers and defensive breakdowns. 

    Cody Martin missed a jumper with 38 seconds to go. Demetrius Jackson cut Notre Dame's deficit in half with a layup 16 seconds later. Then things began to unravel for NC State when Trevor Lacey tried an ill-advised three-quarters-court inbound pass that resulted in a turnover.

     

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  • Duke's second-half rally earns Coach K's 1,000th win

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 2 days ago

    They came to Madison Square Garden to witness a coronation.

    Former Duke players flew in to see Mike Krzyzewski become the first Division I men's coach to win 1,000 games. Dozens of reporters traveled from every corner of the country to pen odes to the greatest college basketball coach of his era. Some of the sport's most prominent coaches even took the time to tape fawning video messages that aired on FOX's broadcast throughout the game.

    Yes, everything was in place for a perfect celebration in Krzyzewski's honor except for one thing: For a while, it appeared St. John's wouldn't let the Duke coach make history at its expense.

    Fifth-ranked Duke escaped with a 77-68 road win on Sunday afternoon despite trailing St. John's by 10 points with just over eight minutes left in the game. Only after Krzyzewski made the unlikely decision to insert seldom-used backup center Marshall Plumlee alongside starter Jahlil Okafor did the Blue Devils finally clamp down on defense and begin showing signs of life. 

    "It was tough to get involved with 1,000. I was just trying to survive this game."

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